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Gang violence smashes record and is still rising


Gang violence shattered the previous record in 2015 and is already on track to surpass last January's total.

The Portland Police Bureau's Gang Enforcement Team was assigned 193 cases last year, almost all of them shootings. That is far more than the 118 in 2012 that was the previous record.

Last year's toll included 15 people killed, 75 people wounded, and over 1,000 rounds fired in the city.

"Last year was a difficult year," says Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. "It was a terrible box score for tragedy."

Eight more incidents were assigned to GET during the first two weeks of this year. Only 10 incidents were assigned in all of last January.

The figures were released during the first Community Peace Collaborative public forum of the year on Friday. It brings representatives of regional law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, community organizations and others who work with at-risk youth together to reduce gang-related violence. The North Precinct meeting was chaired by Hales, who credited those in attendance for helping to keep the figures from being any higher.

"You're doing good work," Hales said. "It may not seem like it some times, but you're doing the right things."

Hales also noted the meeting included Portland police officers and members of the city's minority communities.

"The relationship you see in this room is something you don't see in some other cities these days," Hales said.

The new gang violence figures were distributed days after the Portland Police Association released a survey of its members showing low morale among its members. The vast majority of officers who responded to the survey blame staff shortages and poor bureau leadership for the crime increase.

Hales is preparing to ask the City Council to approve financial incentives to help fill 40 vacant officer positions. Additional vacancies are expected this year because of upcoming retirements.

To read an earlier Portland Tribune story on the survey, go to pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/288681-165819-police-union-survey-says-officer-morale-faith-in-leadership-low.